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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When you bite into a Florida strawberry for Valentine’s Day or National Strawberry Day on Feb. 27, you savor sweetness and juice. That’s what you’ll find in all varieties bred by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers. The latest, ‘Florida Beauty,’ (U.S. PPAF) lives up to the UF/IFAS tradition.
As National Strawberry Day approaches on Feb. 27, we can look forward to even better-tasting fruit from UF/IFAS breeder Vance Whitaker as he tries to help Florida’s $360-million-a-year industry.
‘Florida Beauty,’ a collaboration between UF/IFAS and an Australian scientist, is in its early stages, said Whitaker, an associate professor of horticultural sciences at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A plant always makes for a nice gesture on Valentine’s Day, and University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are breeding flora that may emit alluring aromas to your sweetheart.
Zhanao Deng, a professor of environmental horticulture at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida, breeds gerbera daisy cultivars that are resistant to powdery mildew, the most destructive fungal disease for this type of flower.
Deng and his team have released several gerbera daisy cultivars, and some of them performed well in industry trials in Georgia, Ohio and Texas.
The research doesn’t stop there as Deng and his lab are breeding more lines for the future. Meanwhile, they are sequencing the gerbera daisy’s genes, developing DNA-based molecular markers, and trying to find and engineer the gene or genes that control resistance to the powdery mildew.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences alumni, a producer who worked with UF/IFAS Extension and UF/IFAS Research and a contributor to the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation will be inducted into the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame in February.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame Foundation have announced the four honorees. Each was born and raised on a Florida farm, and each has made outstanding contributions to Florida’s agriculture industry and mentored future leaders in the field. The UF/IFAS-related inductees are:
- W. Bernard Lester, 78, was born in Havana, Florida. Lester graduated from UF CALS with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural economics, earning the latter degree in 1962. He earned a doctorate in agricultural economics from Texas A&M University.Lester returned to Florida and began his career as a research economist with the Florida Department of Citrus. He was eventually promoted to executive director in 1979. In 1986, he took a position with Alico, Inc. Board of Directors until 2005. During this time, he joined the Gulf Citrus Growers Association and was actively involved in all aspects of the association’s mission.“Bernie Lester has been a tireless advocate on behalf of Florida agriculture for more than four decades,” John Hoblick, president of the Florida Farm Bureau, wrote as part of his letter in support of Lester. “His knowledge of production agriculture and his excellent skills in leadership positions are recognized by anyone works with him…”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Nearly a century ago, a group of Polk County citrus growers raised about $14,000 to buy land for a research station. Now, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center.
In 1917, UF/IFAS established the Citrus REC. Originally, only a few UF/IFAS scientists worked at the Lake Alfred site, then called the Citrus Experiment Station.
Today, the research center employs 250 people and is also home to the scientific research staff of the Florida Department of Citrus. It is the largest facility in the world devoted to a single commodity, citrus.
“The UF/IFAS Citrus REC has a long, proud tradition of outstanding science and outreach, and the faculty there show every day why the quality of work performed for the next 100 years will be as good or better than the first century at the facility,” said Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.
FORT PIERCE, Fla. – Rhuanito “Johnny” Soranz Ferrarezi has joined the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to lead citrus horticulture research in the world’s premier grapefruit production region.
Ferrarezi brings more than 10 years of experience to his new position as assistant professor of citrus horticulture to the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce. He joins two additional new hires at UF/IFAS IRREC who will work as a team to assist growers as they manage citrus greening, or Huanglongbing (HLB), the industry’s most formidable pathogen.
“Dr. Ferrarezi is capable and exuberant about his work to manage crop production,” said Ronald Cave, UF/IFAS IRREC director. “He has demonstrated a fervent commitment to agriculture in his native Brazil, which is also one of the world’s most productive citrus regions, and we are confident his work in Florida will be significant.”
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) are working together on unique projects to target Burmese pythons in Florida. Two projects include using detection dogs and Irula tribesmen to help remove pythons from environmentally sensitive areas.
In their first eight days on the job, the Irula tribesmen — world-renowned snake catchers from India — removed 13 pythons, including four on their first visit to Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge on North Key Largo in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Traditionally, the main occupation of the Irula tribe has been catching snakes. They have successfully hunted and captured Indian pythons in their home province of Tamil Nadu.
“Since the Irula have been so successful in their homeland at removing pythons, we are hoping they can teach people in Florida some of these skills,” said Kristen Sommers, section leader of the FWC’s Wildlife Impact Management Section. “We are working with our partners to improve our ability to find and capture pythons in the wild. These projects are two of several new efforts focused on the removal of these snakes.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is getting the word out on updates to the federal Worker Protection Standard. Changes take effect January 2017.
The Worker Protection Standard is a regulation originally issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1992, and was most recently revised in 2015 and goes into effect this year. This regulation is primarily intended to reduce the risks of illness or injury to workers and handlers resulting from occupational exposures to pesticides used in the production of agricultural plants on agricultural establishments, said Fred Fishel, professor of agronomy and director of the Pesticide Information Office. This includes farms, forests, nurseries and enclosed space production facilities such as greenhouses, he said.
Workers are generally those who perform hand-labor tasks in pesticide-treated crops, such as harvesting, thinning, and pruning. Handlers are usually those that are in direct contact with pesticides such as mixing, loading, or applying pesticides.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences economists and other experts will explore economic insights helpful for making informed business and policy decisions at the second annual Florida Agricultural Policy Outlook Conference, organized by the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department.
This year’s topics include the innovation economy, food and nutrition policy, agricultural labor, water quality and management and agricultural production policy and trade.
The conference will be held from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 9 at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, 14625 County Road 672, Balm, Florida.
“Agriculture is a vital industry for Florida with interesting opportunities and compelling challenges as we move into the future,” said Spiro Stefanou, chair of the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department. “Our goal is to bring industry experts, researchers, policy and business leaders together to discuss the current and emerging challenges related to Florida as an engine of innovation, policy related to food, nutrition and consumer decision making, water quality and management, agricultural labor and the prospects for our fruit and vegetable industry.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Asian-Americans in three East Coast states, including Florida, yearn for more of their native vegetables, and those crops can be grown in the East, say two University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.
Gene McAvoy, a UF/IFAS Extension vegetable specialist, and Shouan Zhang, a UF/IFAS plant pathology associate professor, were among a group of 17 researchers from four land-grant universities who surveyed Asian Americans’ preferences in Asian vegetables. Then the researchers tested the crops in various states to see how well they would grow.
There’s a market for locally grown Asian vegetables, researchers say.
In Florida, Asians account for 2.8 percent – or 557,000 — of the state’s 19.8 million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The population of Asian Americans has jumped by 32 percent from 2000 to 2011, according to the census bureau. Asians are expected to make up about 40 million Americans by 2030. On the East Coast alone, there are 5.8 million Asian Americans in 2014, according to the study.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences entomologist has found two more non-native mosquito species in Florida that transmit viruses that cause disease in humans and wildlife. That makes nine new mosquito species found in Florida in the past decade.
“The presence of any exotic mosquito is important from a nuisance, or biting, standpoint,” said Nathan Burkett-Cadena, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of entomology at the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach, Florida. “However, these two species are known to transmit pathogens that affect human and animal health.”
Burkett-Cadena found the mosquito species Aedeomyia squamipennis and Culex panocossa in Florida City and Homestead, both in south Miami-Dade County. He and Erik Blosser, a post-doctoral researcher at the FMEL, were visiting South Florida to collect a native mosquito species, Culex cedecei, to investigate its biology and ecology, when they noticed the two non-native species.